Friday, September 28, 2012

Extra Credit: Percht

Percht is a post-black metal project out of Belgium.  It's the work of Ferre Bulté, who handles everything from vocals and instruments to effects and programming.
The Aftermath of a Velvet Season consists of 8 tracks and comes in at just over an hour.  There's a definite Wolves-In-The-Throne-Room-type influence going on.  It's available at bandcamp courtesy of Broken Limbs Recordings for the "name your price" option, so you can either get it for free or donate what you can to show your support.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Class of 2012: Krallice - Years Past Matter

I was surprised when I saw that Krallice had a new album out.  Last year's Diotima was nearly 70 minutes long, and I didn't expect them to release their next installment of American black metal just yet.

The six songs on Years Past Matter are basically untitled.  The first track is "IIIIIII," and each track increases by "I" so that the final track is "IIIIIIIIIIII."

Despite the two vocal styles employed, vocals are not a top priority.  Consequently, at times, this album has more of an instrumental feel to it. 

If you're familiar with Krallice, then you won't be surprised that four of the songs clock in at over ten minutes.  At under two minutes, however, fifth track "IIIIIIIIIII" is not even a song - it's more of an avant-garde black metal interlude.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Class of 2012: Dinosaur Jr. - I Bet On Sky

When bands split up and then reunite years later, you have to question their motives.  It seems like a lot of bands get back together just to tour and make money.  Are the Pixies ever going to record a new album?  Who knows?

Dinosaur Jr., however, are clearly concerned with putting out new music - both songs and albums that are on par with their classics.  Since the reunion, the band has released Beyond, Farm, and now I Bet On Sky.

The new album doesn't stray from the standard Dinosaur Jr. formula, but it has a rather mellow vibe compared to the last two records.  Could this be a result or even a continuation of last year's brilliant J Mascis solo album Several Shades Of Why?

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Extra Credit: Revocation

Today, Scion A/V released the five-song EP Teratogenesis by Revocation.  And best of all, as long as you're willing to give up your email address, it's free to download.  Just go here and get it, or give the stream a listen first and then download it.

Last year's full-length Chaos of Forms was very good.  If you like that one, then you should dig the new EP.  The guitar playing can get a little technical at times, but it's never in an over-the-top kind of way.  If you like Teratogenesis, then definitely check out Chaos of Forms if you haven't done so already.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Class of 2012: Bob Dylan - Tempest

At this point, we all know how we feel about Mr. Zimmerman.  Personally, I prefer the early stuff, tend to avoid the middle years, and consider anything since Oh Mercy worth my time.

As I was listening to Tempest over the weekend, my mother-in-law, who was visiting and who is a Dylan fan herself (she saw him in concert at some point in the seventies), remarked, "He still can't sing."  If you've heard recent Dylan, then you'll recognize that voice, which at times gives Tom Waits a run for his money.

Tempest gets off to a good start with "Duquesne Whistle," not immediately catchy but the kind of song that stays with you even as the next song begins.  "Narrow Way" is sped-up blues but goes on a bit too long (this happens more than once).  "Long And Wasted Years" finds Dylan at his most charming (and at his best).  Standout track "Pay In Blood" sounds like it could be decades old, and at one point, Dylan can't help but chuckle as he sings, "I pay in blood / but not my own."

Friday, September 21, 2012

Movie Day: It Might Get Loud

2008's It Might Get Loud not only tells the story of how three guitarists (Jimmy Page, Jack White, and The Edge) became who they are, but it also brings them together to discuss the electric guitar and also even jam a little.

In the opening scene, White builds a guitar using a two-by-four, a coke bottle, and little else, and then asks, "Who says you need to buy a guitar?"  For White, technology is a destructive force, whereas the Edge is big on effects and hardware.

Highlights include the following: footage of Jack and Meg winning over some veterans at the Chelsea Pension Home, Page playing air guitar to Link Wray's "Rumble," White and the Edge sitting in awe as Page plays "Whole Lotta Love," White's bloody guitar after playing "Blue Veins" with the Raconteurs, and all three guitarists jamming together on "In My Time of Dying."

It Might Get Loud is rated PG for mild thematic elements, brief language, and smoking.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Class of 2012: Mares of Thrace - The Pilgrimage

On this record, Mares of Thrace is a duo consisting of guitarist/vocalist Thérèse Lanz and drummer Stefani MacKichan.  Over the summer, however, Stefani left the band for "the educational program of her dreams" and was replaced by Rae Amitay.

Mares of Thrace is not your typical duo.  The vocals are mostly of the yelling sort with a little growling thrown in for good measure ("Act I: David Glimpses Bathsheba" and "The Perpetrator").  Lanz plays her custom baritone guitar with considerable skill, and MacKichan handles the sticks with equal aptitude.

Standout track "The Gallwasp" finds both Mares complementing each other perfectly.  The song is catchy in an unexpected way - not vocally but musically.  This album needs more moments like this one.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Extra Credit: Mare Cognitum

Mare Cognitum is Latin for "Sea that has become known."  If you're into NASA and outer space stuff, then you may be familiar with this term.
Mare Cognitum, however, is also Jacob Buczarski's one-man black metal project from Santa Ana, California.  Atmospheric at times, An Extraconscious Lucidity pummels its way through 6 songs in 49 minutes.  I stumbled upon this recently and am surprised that more people aren't talking about this.  It's available at bandcamp for the "name your price" option, so you can either get it for free or donate what you can to show your support.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Class of 2012: Dawnbringer - Into The Lair Of The Sun God

Dawnbringer, led by Chris Black (former bassist for Nachtmystium, current drummer for Pharaoh, also fronts Superchrist and High Spirits), plays classic-sounding heavy metal.  I wouldn't be surprised if Eddie Trunk were a fan.

Into The Lair Of The Sun God is a concept record about a man who sets out to kill the sun.  We learn this toward the end of "I" (the songs are simply titled Roman numerals I-IX) with the lyric "I am the one / to murder the sun."  The songs proceed to tell a tragic tale, but I won't give anything away.  Consider it your assignment to listen and figure it all out.

For me, this album can be divided into halves.  Tracks "I" through "IV" represent the better half.  The songs are faster, and the guitar playing is more impressive.  This half sounds like a heavy metal guitar record without going overboard or over-indulging.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Class of 2012: Drudkh - Eternal Turn of the Wheel

Ukrainian black metallers Drudkh keep a low profile.  They don't do interviews, they don't sing (That's not the right word, is it?) in English, and their lyrics often come from Ukrainian poetry.

Eternal Turn of the Wheel opens with the acoustic instrumental "Eternal Circle."  This is the calm before the storm.

Within seconds of "Breath of Cold Black Soil," you can tell that this record is a little angrier and more aggressive than 2010's very good Handful of Stars.  The vocals, in particular, seem to have an extra bit of fury behind them.  Be sure to pay attention to the bells ringing, giving this song that added touch.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Class of 2012: Bosse-de-Nage - III

The Bay Area's Bosse-de-Nage is a bit of an enigma.  This four-piece doesn't seem to play live, nor do they do any sort of promotions for their recordings.  They play blackened math rock, and this album was obviously recorded under the Slint-fluence.

"The Arborist" gets III off to a pretty good start.  It shows what the band can do and highlights what they do well.

"Desuetude" comes next and is, without a doubt, the strongest track on the album.  If I didn't know any better, after hearing the first 30 seconds, I would have been convinced that this was Japandroids.  III needs more songs like this one.  What's interesting is that this is the only song that doesn't feature any spoken vocals, and it's the best song on the record.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Extra Credit: Desolate Oasis

Desolate Oasis is a one-man band from Boulder Creek, California.  That man is Dimitri "M." Kuzbyt, who's clearly been following the shoegazing black metal coming out of France for the last decade or so.

When dreams become reality is a five-song, thirty-minute release courtesy of Broken Limbs Recordings.  It's available at bandcamp for the "name your price" option, so you can either get it for free or donate what you can to show your support.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Class of 2012: Ash Borer - Cold of Ages

California's Ash Borer offers up atmospheric American black metal on their latest release, Cold of Ages.  Coming in at just over 60 minutes, these four songs range from long (11:25) to very long (18:09).  For this style of music, however, song length can easily top 10 minutes with effective transitions, shifts, and tempo changes.

Opening track "Descended Lamentations" starts by creating an eery atmosphere and then switches to chilling, frosty black metal that could easily give a child nightmares for weeks.

"Phantoms" begins slowly and then gets progressively faster, at which point I can hear the soundtrack to some sort of Fight Club-esque montage.  The song comes to an end over a faint drumbeat and ambient, avant-garde tendencies.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Class of 2012: Windfaerer - Solar

A violinist in a metal band sounds like a bad idea, but the band Windfaerer pulls it off brilliantly.  Although clearly influenced by black metal, this is by no means a traditional black metal album.  In addition to black metal, you'll also hear elements of melodic death metal and folk metal.

While the band considers Solar to be an EP, its seven songs in just over 35 minutes is the perfect amount.  Opening track "The Mortal Flare" is an instrumental that doesn't reveal too much but makes you want to hear more.  This is followed by the rather uplifting "A Glimpse of Light," a black metal song at its core that feels victorious instead of bleak and dark.

"Worlds of the Self" brings the aforementioned violin into the mix.  There's a sweet breakdown with just vocals, drums, and bass around the three-minute mark that's one of my favorite moments on the record.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Class of 2012: Conan - Monnos

British doomsters Conan are a three-piece whose primary goal is to crush your skull.  And they do their fair share of crushing on Monnos, but instead of feeling laborious and drawn-out, it's actually quite enjoyable.

Opener "Hawk As Weapon" slowly churns along and is followed by the terrific "Battle in the Swamp," which speeds things up a bit.  Throughout the record, the vocals sound slightly distant, and on this track in particular, I'm reminded of Maynard James Keenan.  Next is "Grim Tormentor," with its added bonus of dual high/low vocals.  And just when you think the song is over, it decides to keep chugging along.

My only issue with this album is the instrumental "Golden Axe."  While far from terrible, it would be better if it were shorter (possibly cut in half) or if it moved forward and progressed.  It just doesn't go anywhere over the course of nearly six minutes.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Teacher's Pet: J Mascis

I discovered Dinosaur Jr. in high school - it must've been around my sophomore year.  And back when Spin magazine was actually worth reading, I remember the time J Mascis was on their cover with the caption "J Mascis is God."  This was right before the release of 1993's Where You Been.

By my senior year, I was convinced that sebadoh was the way to go and became more interested in the work of Lou Barlow.  (Barlow was kicked out of Dinosaur Jr. in 1989 but rejoined the band for the Dinosaur Jr. reunion nearly twenty years later.)  While there's no doubt that Bubble & Scrape and Bakesale are great records, there's no comparing sebadoh to Dinosaur Jr.

J Mascis' voice is like no other ("All my favorite singers couldn't sing"), and neither is his guitar playing.  His solos are instantly recognizable and often result in uncontrolled air-guitar playing.  A current favorite is J Mascis + the Fog's "Say the Word" off of the underrated Free So Free.  It's an average song until Mascis takes over at the 1:10 mark and doesn't relent until two minutes later.  It's ridiculous.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Class of 2012: Testament - Dark Roots Of Earth

Sure, Testament has been around for nearly 30 years, but the recently released Dark Roots of Earth is proof that the band still has it.  Over the course of nine songs (not counting the bonus tracks), take note of commandingly solid drumming, top-notch guitar work, and strong vocals.

Opener "Rise Up" sets the tone for what's to come, while second track "Native Blood" finds Chuck Billy getting in touch with his roots and sending the message that he's not afraid to fight back.  The band slows down a bit for the title track, but you'll definitely be digging it by the time the chorus rolls around.  The album's best moment, "True American Hate," has a fist-pumping, catchy chorus as well as its share of guitar heroics.  In fact, don't be surprised if you're suddenly playing air guitar during this song (or at some point during the record).

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Class of 2012: The Howling Wind - Of Babalon

American black metal duo The Howling Wind consists of Ryan Lipynsky (Thralldom, Unearthly Trance, The Serpentine Path) and Tim Parasitic (Aldebaran, Weregoat).  Of Babalon consists of 8 tracks plus a bonus cover of Hellhammer's "Horus/Aggressor."

As "The Seal Upon The Tomb" begins, I can't help but be reminded of Drudkh (the sum of the parts but especially in the vocals).  As the song (and the rest of the album) continues, however, this feeling fades.

Overall, the vocals are blackened, but at one point, there's a hint of some death metal.  This occurs in "Beast Of The Sea," and if you listen carefully, you'll see what I mean. It's too bad there's not more of this growl throughout.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Extra Credit: Laster

Laster, which means "libel," is a black metal duo from the Netherlands.  Wijsgeer & Narreman is their 3-song demo and is available for free at their bandcamp page.  While not trying to reinvent the wheel, Laster does a pretty good job of playing Drudkh/Burzum-inspired black metal from years past.  Of the three songs, the title track finds them at their best and most interesting, pushing themselves a bit further than the more straightforward first two songs.